The Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered status quo on the dismantling of India's decommissioned aircraft carrier 'Viraat', which was in service with the Indian Navy for nearly three decades.
A bench headed by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde issued notice to the Centre and others seeking their responses on a plea filed by a firm, which seeks preservation of the ship from being dismantled and for modifying it into a museum.
Dismantling of the Viraat started over a month ago at a shipbreaking yard in Gujarat. An association of ex-navy personnel from the UK and India had been campaigning to save the Viraat from going to scrap.
Reacting to the news of the Supreme Court order, former Indian Navy chief admiral Arun Prakash termed the move as “justice delayed”. Prakash was one of the pioneer pilots of the Sea Harrier fighters that operated on the Viraat and had also served as the ship’s captain. Prakash tweeted, “Justice delayed...Having been in the hands of ship-breakers for over a month, one wonders if it is worth saving the gutted hulk of Viraat anymore.”
Retired vice admiral Jaggi Bedi also felt the Supreme Court order came "too late" given the damage to the ship. Bedi tweeeted, "SC ruling has come too late. Viraat has already been disfigured rather ruthlessly and no buyer would invest additional amount to reconstruct..."
Images of the Viraat at the shipbreaking yard showed that its ski-jump, from which aircraft ‘leaped’ off the flight deck, had been cut away.
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Journalist Vishnu Som of NDTV tweeted that the shipbreaker had said “all cutting” on the vessel was done. Groups advocating to save the carrier had criticised the government for not issuing a no-objection certificate to transfer the vessel from the shipbreaking yard.
The Centaur-class aircraft carrier, INS Viraat, was in service with the Indian Navy for 29 years before being decommissioned in March 2017.
The Centre had in July 2019 informed the Parliament that the decision to scrap Viraat was taken after due consultation with the Indian Navy.